In an effort to protect the province’s water resources, Manitoba announced its first comprehensive Surface Water Management Strategy along with multi-year surface water management investments.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced the strategy on June 11, noting that $320 million of the province’s $5.5-billion infrastructure plan has been earmarked for flood protection and water control infrastructure, in addition to $4 million that is to be invested in on-farm water retention projects over the next five years.

“Manitoba faces three water woes: excessive nutrient loading of waterways that is harming Lake Winnipeg, damage from flooding and the risk of drought,” Mackintosh said.  “All three can be mitigated with a new, sustainable approach to managing drainage and investing in flood control infrastructure.”

About 75 per cent of Manitoba’s original wetlands have been drained following industrial development in the area, which prevents waterways from naturally retaining, releasing, and refreshing water over time, Mackintosh said. Manitoba’s strategy includes a plan to alter drainage licensing that would streamline routine draining approvals while seeking to protect seasonal wetlands and halt this loss of wetland benefits.

Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said, “By working together, we have developed a regulatory process that helps landowners and municipalities to complete work quickly and in a holistic, comprehensive approach that limits impacts downstream.”

The Surface Water Management Strategy includes 50 actions to be put in place by 2020. Examples of these actions include building a network of run-off retention ponds; management of lakes with no natural drainage outlet; additional protected wetland areas in agricultural Manitoba; improved management of stormwater through porous pavement, green roofs and rainwater harvesting and retention; and an Interagency Surface Water Advisory Team to plan surface water management within provincial watersheds.

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– Katie Yantzi

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